An East Coast-based supermarket chain apologized after releasing a holiday-themed advertisement containing what many interpreted as a flippant reference to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Giant Foods, which has stores in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., unveiled the ad in December’s issue of its in-store magazine, Savory. 

“Hosting? Plan a super spread,” a tagline reads, alongside images of shrimp cocktail, fruit and cheese platters, and a dessert tart. 

Unfortunately, the ad’s creators appeared to have overlooked the use of “superspreader” as it pertains to COVID-19. The non-scientific term is being applied to large events and other situations in which many attendees do not wear masks and social distancing guidelines are ignored. In those circumstances, an infected person can easily pass the coronavirus along to 10 or more people. 

Recent events that have been deemed superspreaders include weddings, college parties and indoor bars filled to capacity. A Sept. 26 event at the White House, during which President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, was also widely described as such. 

The ad earned heavy criticism online. “DAMN folks,” one person wrote. “There is a marketing guy somewhere sobbing into his coffee.” Added another: “Extremely irresponsible. It truly feels as if the world is upside down.”  

Giant Food acknowledged the backlash on Twitter late Monday. 

By Wednesday, the Maryland-based franchise had issued a full apology. 

“We apologize for our advertisement in Savory which used the language Super Spread to describe an abundance of food,” a spokesman for the company said in an email statement sent to HuffPost. “While, in hindsight, the choice of words was a poor one, Giant had no intentions of insensitivity. We continue to encourage people to practice safe social distancing practices for celebrating the holidays in line with” recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“2020 has been exceptionally challenging for so many reasons and this year the holidays will be celebrated very differently,” the email continued. “But we hope that food can still be a source of joy and comfort and that the ad reflects that spirit.” 

The Giant Food controversy comes as coronavirus cases are on the rise in all 50 states. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has repeatedly urged Americans to avoid indoor gatherings with family members and friends this holiday season to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

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